by Lilian S. Barber

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As breeder referral person for the Italian Greyhound Club of America, I often receive letters and phone calls that require more than a simple list of breeders in someone's geographical area. Sometimes, for one reason or another, the person inquiring is a bit too enthusiastic about starting to breed without first doing his or her homework. It may be that the person doesn't even realize that there is more to breeding than simply putting a male and female of the same breed together, or it is possible that they simply want to start a puppy business and don't really care about the things that concern serious fanciers. Here is an answer to a "generic" inquiry of this type:

Dear Inquirer: Please do not feel that you are imposing even though your letter indicates that you are not quite ready to buy a puppy. I am flattered that you feel I might know the answers to your questions and shall try to offer valid advice. Hopefully you will follow at least some of it. My book, The New Complete Italian Greyhound, has a chapter on how to go about buying a show puppy. I shall give you some of its highlights (or lowlights, if you prefer to see it that way.)

First, if you were to approach an ethical breeder and say that you wish to buy a male and a female for breeding you would probably be turned down. Most of us are concerned about our breed and are leery of anyone who wants to start immediately with a breeding pair. I won't go into the details --your letter sounds as if you already know most of them. However, there are people who come from more commercially oriented breeds who would like to push IGs into a popularity that would sell lots of puppies. Most of them start out great guns until they discover that they are unable to make big money in this breed. It sounds like a contradiction, but IGs can be difficult to either sell or to buy. The puppies haven't the universal appeal of the fuzzy babies of coated breeds; and they MUST be properly socialized if they are to grow into good show dogs or even good companions. Mass produced pups that fail to receive a great deal of individual attention can turn out shy, hyper or both.

My advice is to start with ONE. See how you like showing an IG, learn more about the breed, the people in it and, most important, WHERE YOUR ORIGINAL IG NEEDS IMPROVEMENT. It is difficult enough to buy a good show puppy without compounding the problem by looking for TWO that would also be good (or even merely acceptable) to breed to each other. Unless you bought them from a really major breeder (there are very few of these) who works with several different bloodlines, you could wind up with a pair that are too closely related to breed together without considerable risk of genetic problems. Most breeders who WOULD sell you a so-called "breeding pair" would probably not even mention this possibility to you.

The concern of serious fanciers about IGs possibly becoming too popular is not a "sacred cow" sort of thing. there is genuine concern among IG devotees for the dogs and what will become of surplus puppies produced by over-ambitious and greedy people interested only in puppy sales. There is also concern for the new fancier. Until a few years ago, when there were far fewer breeders (or those who call themselves that), a novice could safely buy a decent puppy from almost anyone who had one available. It may be easier now to FIND a puppy --but not only is there a great deal of variation in quality, but prices vary and not always in keeping with what is being offered. From some sources, guarantees sound good but mean little. This is not necessarily because sellers intentionally want to take advantage of the novice. It is difficult even for someone with many years and litters of experience to accurately predict quality at an early age; and many of the newer breeders sell very young pups strictly on the assumption that, since the sire and dam are champions, the offspring will be great. Others are kennel blind and see faults only in the dogs of others. Some successful and reputable breeders have waiting lists for puppies from certain matings, and you can get in line as well. However, there will still be first through last choices in these litters, and you, as a newcomer, will probably not be at the head of the line. Those who have been in the dog game long enough are aware that they may not get a pick puppy right away, but to get the bloodline they want they are willing to take a chance even if another generation or two will be required to parlay the puppy into something really special.

Since you have expressed an interest in breeding, you probably want to start with a bitch that you could then breed to a stud of your choice. However, there always seem to be more male puppies born and available than females. Since there are many more boys available from which to choose and since most breeders want to keep the top quality bitches for themselves, you stand a better chance of being able to buy a really good quality male for your first IG. If you do this, when your male has finished his championship, or as the time approaches, you will be in a much better position to seek out a good bitch to purchase. By that time you will have seen many dogs and will have become familiar with different breeders and different bloodlines as well as with the breed standard itself. In other words, you will be able to make an educated and intelligent choice.

Reading the ads in dog magazines or on the Internet can give a false idea of where to buy a show puppy. Advertising claims, although rarely bold faced lies, can be considerably inflated or otherwise slanted. Sometimes puppies are advertised as show quality simply because their parents are AKC registered. If neither of the parents is a finished champion, any show prospect claims should be regarded with a grain or two of salt. Most show winners are produced by people who exhibit actively and breed only their best dogs.

Prices? They vary a great deal. Some breeders very appropriately charge more because they live where the cost of raising litters and keeping dogs is higher, or they factor in some or all of their show expenses. $1000 or more is not unusual for a top breeder to ask, and the price of an older puppy that is definitely show quality rather than just a show prospect can be considerably higher. There is no bargain basement for buying a show puppy. Keep in mind also, as you seek the right Italian Greyhound to buy, that there is no such thing as "breeding quality," that nebulous status of dogs supposedly not quite good enough to show but better than what would be called "pet quality." A dog that is not good enough to show rarely has the virtues necessary for successful breeding.

If there is a handler whom you trust and are thinking of having him or her choose a puppy for you, be very sure that this handler is thoroughly versed in the breed. Often a handler looks first for flash and charisma, choosing a dog for its potential as a winner rather than for its adherence to the breed standard. This may be fine if your wish is for instant gratification in the show ring, but it will not be the best choice for establishing a breeding program.

There are many good, honest breeders, although it may be necessary to go a distance afield to find one and even then you may have to wait for a puppy. Make personal visits if you possibly can. If it can be arranged, take someone with you who has experience in evaluating IGs. Is there a chance of your attending a specialty? There are several each year in various parts of the country. Breeders from other areas will be there, and you would be able to talk with several of them as well as to see their dogs. Do not be in a rush to buy and do not allow a breeder to persuade you to jump into a "deal" without first thinking it over. Be sure to discuss what kind of guarantee, if any, the breeder will make regarding health and regarding the puppy's worthiness for the show ring. Be realistic in your expectations, and remember that you are not buying a piece of machinery that can be easily repaired if something goes wrong with it. In the long run the effort will be worthwhile, and you will be able to look forward to many happy years "in" Italian Greyhounds. Let me know how you make out.

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